Turkish government’s witch hunt targeting Gülen movement in full throttle

Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ announced on Wednesday that a total of 1,094 cases have been launched against those who are allegedly affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement since a failed coup attempt on July 15.

Speaking to the pro-government TVNET channel, Bozdağ said the number of cases would increase following the completion of indictments for individuals who face charges of terrorism because they are followers of the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government refers to the movement as “a terror organization” despite the lack of any court decision to this effect or terrorist activity on the part of the movement.

Meanwhile, dozens of people have been detained by police in Turkey on Wednesday as witch hunt campaign of the Turkish government targeting Gülen movement continues in full speed. Police has detained 15 police officers, teachers in Antalya, 17 teachers in Malatya and Turkey’s first female fleet commander Staff Maj. Bilgehan Bülbül in Ankara over their alleged links with Gülen movement and their alleged involvement into July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

Staff Maj. Bülbül, the commander of the largest transport fleet of the Air Force Command in Ankara and the first female fleet commander, has been detained over alleged involvement in a coup attempt on July 15. Bülbül, who was expected to become the first female general, and her husband Nail Bülbül are accused of being members of Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding a failed coup attempt. The couple is also accused of organizing secret meetings with several other high-ranking Turkish military officers in order to overthrow the AKP government.

In Antalya province, a total of fifteen people, including police officers, teachers and school principals were arrested by a court on Wednesday in an investigation targeting those who are affiliated with the Gülen movement. Police has detained 28 people early on Wednesday in simultaneous raids across Antalya. Of those, 15 were sent to jail later the same day, while 13 were released pending trial.

Moreover, a total of 17 teachers were detained in Malatya province on Wednesday over alleged links to the Gülen movement. The detainees have previously been dismissed from profession with decrees issued by the AKP government in the aftermath of a coup attempt of July 15.

Teachers were detained on charges of using ByLock, a smart phone application that authorities believe is a communication tool between members of the Gülen movement.

AIR FORCE ACADEMY’S 51 STUDENTS RELEASED

An Ankara court on Wednesday decided to release 51 students from the Air Force Academy who were arrested in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15 due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement. The Ankara 14th High Criminal Court’s decision to release the students came in the wake of the emergence of new evidence sent to the court by the Air Forces Command and the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The prosecutor’s office told the court that the investigation against the students showed they did not download the smart phone application known as ByLock to their mobile phones. Turkish prosecutors believe ByLock is the top communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement. Thousands of people have been arrested simply for using this application.

The trial of the students will begin on March 28. The students face three consecutive life sentences in addition to a jail term of from seven years six months up to 15 years on charges of attempting to eliminate the constitutional order, attempting to overthrow the AKP government and the Parliament by use of force and being members of a terror organization.

Another Ankara court also decided to release 43 other Air Force Academy students on Jan. 24 who were arrested following the July 15 coup attempt. There are still 48 Air Force Academy students who are behind the bars.

Turkey experienced a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

More than 135,000 people have been purged from state bodies and 43,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian.

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